Should you feed your pet a raw food diet?
There’s a lot of chat in the pet world about feeding dogs and cats a raw meat diet. But is it right for you, or more particularly, for your pet?
Many pet owners have been accustomed to feeding dry kibble pet food with or without tinned pet products to go with it. So, the talk about raw pet diets can all be a bit confusing. Let’s take a look at what the raw diet for pets is all about, the potential pros and cons, and whether it’s something you want to consider for your furry friend.
What is a raw diet for dogs and cats?
Raw pet food can be home-made, store bought, freeze-dried or dehydrated. It’s based on meat from a range of different animals including poultry, beef, kangaroo and fish among others. A raw diet for dogs would usually include muscle meat, organ meats (such as kidneys and livers), whole or ground bones, raw eggs, yoghurt, fruits and vegetables (such as carrot, broccoli, spinach and apple). A raw diet for cats would look more like raw meat from muscles and organs, whole or ground bones, eggs and often supplements.
The raw diet for cats or dogs is all about emulating the diet of that animal’s natural ancestors. In the wild, they eat prey animals, head to tail. While dogs can eat some plant-based foods, cats on the other hand are obligate carnivores who need animal products to survive. They thrive on the protein, moisture, fatty acids and essential nutrients found only in raw meat.
What are the benefits of a raw diet for cats and dogs?
Advocates of raw dog food and raw cat food will happily tell you all the pros of their way of feeding. Some of the benefits include:
- Increased energy and vitality, as well as providing a boost to the pet’s immune system.
- Raw meat is naturally pH balanced and retains enzymes and nutrients that can get lost in cooking. It’s also high in protein and contains little or no carbohydrate.
- As cat’s and dog’s intestines are designed to digest raw meat, this diet can aid digestion and a healthy gut. It can also mean smaller stools.
- Great for bone and joint health, as well as a shinier coat and healthy skin.
- Improves dental health and reduces bad breath.
- Fresh meat is highly palatable so pets are likely to enjoy eating it.
Are there any cons to feeding a raw meat diet?
Well, yes there can be. The main one being that bacteria in raw meat can be harmful to pet health, and human health too. For this reason, it’s important to select raw meat from the right sources to minimise the risk of pathogens. Care must be taken when handling raw meat or fish products, in terms of proper washing and sanitation of knives, chopping boards, pet bowls etc.
Sometimes it’s not appropriate to feed fresh raw meat to your pet. For example, if they suffer with cancer, poor kidney or liver health, the high protein content may mean raw cat food or raw dog food is not ideal for them. It is also generally recommended to feed puppies and kittens cooked food in the early days, due to their immature immune systems.
The other potential downside of the raw diet is the difficulty in getting nutritional balance right, especially if creating the food from scratch. Bones also pose risks, in terms of choking and broken teeth, so take care there.
“The raw diet for cats or dogs is all about emulating the diet of that animal’s natural ancestors”.
How to get started on a raw pet food diet
As mentioned, it’s possible to create a home-made raw diet for your pets. There are plenty of online resources from vet nutritionists and other experts, to advise what should go into it. However, it can be tricky to get the nutrition spot on, not to mention time consuming.
One alternative is to buy ready-made commercial raw products that have already been formulated to be “Complete and Balanced”, which means that the product meets all your pet’s nutritional needs in that one food.
Some people go for a complementary approach, which might involve feeding your pet a mix of raw and cooked products or feeding commercial products alongside some home sourced foods. If you choose to mixed feed, then just make sure that the majority of your pet’s intake is from Complete and Balanced sources. Paringa has a wide range of raw dog food and raw cat food that is formulated with all types of pets and owners in mind, to make embarking on a raw meat diet easy.
If you’re interested in the potential benefits of raw pet food and wanting to try it for the first time, we have this information on how to correctly change your dog’s food or change your cat’s food to increase your chances of a successful transition.